Dad and his four siblings were extremely happy to welcome the family’s fifth baby in the midst of their mother’s love, strength and greatness.


Dad and his four siblings were extremely happy to welcome the family's fifth baby in the midst of their mother's love, strength and greatness.

This the birth story of Maasai. The fifth child of his loving parents, he was brought into the world at home, surrounded by support and trust in the empowering process we call birth. His mother Marisa is a Jacksonville doula (check her out here!) and it was an honor to be her birth photographer! Here is her story, in her own words. -Dallas

Middleburg Home Water Birth Photography — Dallas Arthur Birth Stories & Support


“On the night of July 1st 2020, I was 39 weeks and some days pregnant and finally at peace with the arrival of my 5th child, whenever that would be! Around 11PM I felt a contraction. Being the doula and wise mama that I am, I decided to go to sleep! Within minutes I realized that was not happening. A couple of contractions later I told my husband to put the lights up on the back patio because this child was probably on their way. I had hired one of my favorite local photographers, so I was not birthing with bad lighting!

I labored over the bathroom sink with a pillow to lay my head on for about an hour. I was a tired mom of 4 who, as usual, didn’t manage to sleep before birthing a whole human or two. I don’t actually mind going into labor without a good night’s sleep, as it really makes me rest between contractions which only promotes more peace for me. This is the opposite of what I hope for most laboring mothers, but it seems to work for my body! I remember turning the diffuser on and choosing the purple lighting, there was already lavender in it, and my husband sitting behind me for support. I probably would have stayed there for hours if I hadn’t noticed my photographer had arrived and decided I did not want a documented bathroom birth. I went into the living room, my parent’s living room, as their home is where I birthed this baby (a story for another day), and paced once or twice until I landed in a spot that felt right.

That spot was the bottom shelf of their entertainment center. It was not the most fabulous spot to labor.

It took me about 3 contractions to move to the couch. A slightly better choice, slightly…at least I could simulate sleep for a couple minutes between the waves.

Not long after that move my midwife and her assistants showed up and I knew I was ready for the pool.

It was really on trend for me this pregnancy to forget pretty much everything, including purchasing a hose adapter. I also ordered my birth kit at 38 weeks because there is clearly a pattern here, and it arrived, appropriately, the day after I had my baby. So we had no hose adapter and they needed to fill the birth pool.

Birth workers are miracle workers. We meet the greatest and the smallest of needs and they are all such important and impactful pieces to the puzzle of birth. I needed to be in the water, and the people around me made that happen. I was frustrated for a second, but I told my husband to make it work and I trusted that they would.

I knew what I needed, and I didn’t care how expressing my needs would make others feel.

There is a time in birth where we leave everyone else and our sole focus is bringing this life into the world, and navigating whatever time we have left to do that great work. There is something so beautiful, to me, about that time.

Hold nothing against a laboring woman, she is in another world where no one knows better than her what she needs in that space, and she should feel zero shame in expressing those needs however she sees fit.

Once the pool was filled I walked, almost ran, to it.

The water brings me immediate comfort, it always has. I’ve grown up around water, had pools, lived near beaches, I swam competitively for years, l was even a lifeguard for my first job.

Water is beautiful, powerful, soothing and even healing, it was exactly what I needed.

Unfortunately, I quickly realized pushing was going to take longer than I had hoped.

In past births my pushing stage was relatively quick. This time I had a little bit of cervix to push past, and I felt the urge to push him out with little patience for the process.

I actually vocalized how much I didn’t want to push at one point, and I really did not! Like maybe someone else could just do that part for me, even though that part is the absolute best part.

It wasn’t long after accepting my fate that I felt a head.

I tell mothers all the time to reach down and feel their baby’s heads, if they’d like. Very often they say no, but when they say yes you can feel the energy shift in the room. Feeling your baby descend into your pelvis, then reaching down to touch the hair atop their little head, is pure motivation.

After a couple more pushes I crowned. I wish I could describe how incredible it is to be in between two worlds for just those precious seconds. It’s you and your baby, leaving one of the most sacred bonds for another. I felt the most perfect little lips and a tiny nose, that is a moment I will treasure forever.

At 4:25AM, with the next contraction, I brought our baby up onto my chest and we met our 5th born.

I was thrilled it was over and ready for a much needed break from the world to bond with my son, who I had known was my son from the moment I found out I was carrying him.

My birth team provided all the peace I asked for by giving me the space I desired, they were also the hands I needed when I asked for them.

I was ready to deliver my placenta before it was ready, you can see it on my face in the photos!

You would think that working in birth would give one the patience to gracefully move through their own, but not that day!

I knew all but one of my children had slept through my 5 hour labor and I was ready to have a golden hour with my son then get us into bed before they woke!

The mirror image of me (bless her defiant soul), Aria Noelle Atkins, snuck off to deliver the news to her siblings just an hour after he was born.

I. Was. Pissed. Birth high gone, back to reality, who was going to put my kids to bed after this!? Not my mom, she stayed up for the whole birth, helped with Aria, and went to sleep when everyone left. Certainly not me. My husband is a good man and a better father, so on July 2nd 2020 he went without sleep! He survived, and this postpartum experience has been my best.

I was pissed, I said it and I meant it, but my babies got to meet their sibling the morning he was born, I will treasure that time and the photos forever, and for that I am so grateful.

My 4th birth and 5th child came just 8 years after my 1st.

My body has grown 5 humans to full term, two at once, and I have delivered them all vaginally, 4 of them at home.

A lot of feelings come with that realization, not all of them good, but the one I recognize most often is love. So as often as I can, despite how long and hard the days can be, I choose joy.

I am so unbelievably blessed, having more love to give and receive than some people experience in an entire lifetime, and I never planned for any of it! I believe it’s because of that, that I will spend the rest of my life consciously choosing gratitude.”

Thank you, Marisa, for sharing your story! It was a joy to be your birth photographer and capture all these amazing moments for you to bottle up and keep forever.

As always, it was great to work alongside the midwives of First Coast Midwifery Services! Check them out if you are looking for a birth center or home birth in the Jacksonville, Middleburg, Orange Park, or St. Augustine area of Northeast Florida.


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